In a move it says will integrate more renewable energy into North American power grids, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator has approved its largest portfolio of regional transmission projects in recent history.
The board of the ISO, which operates power grids in the Midwestern and Southern US, plus Manitoba, Canada, voted unanimously to approve a tranche of projects that include some $10.4 billion in investment. These transmission projects will integrate about 53 GW and create more than 200,000 jobs.
The 18 projects are located across the MISO territory, with many in the Great Lakes area: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and North and South Dakota.
MISO, which has its headquarters in Carmel, Indiana, said it received feedback and information from utilities with operations in the region, including DTE Energy, MidAmerican Energy Co., Otter Tail Power Co., Entergy, Ameren, ITC Transmission, Invenergy and others.
“This Tranche 1 portfolio is the first of four planned tranches in MISO’s Long-Range Transmission Planning (LRTP) process. These critical projects are needed to begin to integrate new generation resources outlined in MISO member and states plans and increase resiliency in the face of severe weather events,” according to a release by MISO.
The second tranche will focus more on the Midwestern subregion, the third on MISO’s Southern US region, and the fourth will address power exchange between the two subregions, said Aubrey Johnson, MISO’s vice president of system planning.
MISO estimates nearly $37 billion in financial benefits, thanks to transmission congestion relief, fuel savings, capital cost avoidance, resource adequacy savings, avoided risk of load shed and lowered carbon emissions. The ISO said these estimates are supported by FERC.
According to MISO, the ISO used existing transmission corridors to plan this portfolio of projects, reducing the impact on local areas and communities, lowering construction costs, and shortening implementation time.
“Right now, in Minnesota, we have areas where electricity generation from wind is consistently performing, but we cannot get all of that energy where it is most in demand because our transmission lines do not have the capacity we need,” said Mike Schowalter, senior policy associate, clean electricity at Fresh Energy. "This transmission investment will start to solve that problem and enable massive carbon reductions. MISO has done a great job bringing this transmission plan forward, but this is just the beginning as we need more, and we need more soon.”
“The Midwest desperately needs these lines to help avoid blackouts, and they also will save customers $37 billion in energy costs over time. But our work is far from done: We must push immediately to approve the other lines MISO has identified," said Toba Pearlman, Renewable Energy Advocate/Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council.